June 20, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC--The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $390 million for the Legal Services Corporation's (LSC) FY 2009 budget yesterday, a $40 million, or 11 percent increase over current funding levels, and the same amount recommended by a House subcommittee last week.
The Committee is led by Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) with Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) as Ranking Member. Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) leads the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which is responsible for drafting the spending bill containing LSC's budget. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) serves as Ranking Member of the subcommittee.
"America's promise of 'equal justice for all' often rings hollow for too many of our fellow citizens," said Frank B. Strickland, Chairman of LSC's Board of Directors. "This increase would help make that promise a reality for some of the millions of low-income Americans struggling to solve life's most pressing legal problems without a helping hand. On their behalf, I would like to thank Senators Byrd, Cochran, Mikulski, Shelby and every member of the Committee for taking this critical step in the right direction."
LSC's groundbreaking 2005 report, Documenting the Justice Gap in America-The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans, found that chronic funding shortages force LSC's grantees to turn away 50 percent of eligible low-income Americans seeking their assistance. Since then, numerous statewide legal needs studies have found that LSC's report vastly underestimates the unmet civil legal needs of the country's poor.
LSC would distribute $369 million of the total to 137 grantees providing free civil legal services to low-income Americans in every city, county, state, and territory in the nation. An additional $3.8 million would be allocated to LSC's Technology Initiative Grants program, which funds innovative technology projects that help grantees more efficiently and effectively serve their clients. The Committee also dedicated $1 million to LSC's Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which helps alleviate the crushing educational debt burdens of low-paid legal aid lawyers. Of the remaining $16.2 million, $13 million would cover the management and oversight expenses of the Corporation and $3.2 million would go to the Office of Inspector General.
LSC is an independent, non-profit Corporation created by Congress in 1974 to promote equal access to justice and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. The Corporation gives grants to independent, local programs--in 2008, 137 programs with more than 900 offices nationwide.